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This title in other editions

The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning

by

The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning Cover

ISBN13: 9780393072150
ISBN10: 0393072150
All Product Details

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Today both reality and entertainment crowd our fields of vision with brutal imagery. The pervasiveness of images of torture, horror, and war has all but demolished the twentieth-century hope that such imagery might shock us into a less alienated state, or aid in the creation of a just social order. What to do now? When to look, when to turn away? Genre-busting author Maggie Nelson brilliantly navigates this contemporary predicament, with an eye to the question of whether or not focusing on representations of cruelty makes us cruel. In a journey through high and low culture (Kafka to reality TV), the visual to the verbal (Paul McCarthy to Brian Evenson), and the apolitical to the political (Francis Bacon to Kara Walker), Nelson offers a model of how one might balance strong ethical convictions with an equally strong appreciation for work that tests the limits of taste, taboo, and permissibility.

Review:

"The gory, brutal images that swamp modern culture are stupefying and dehumanizing — or maybe not, argues this richly ambivalent study. Poet Nelson (Bluets) surveys cruel art, lowbrow and high, flitting among Hollywood torture-porn and sadistic reality shows, avant-garde films and performance pieces, poetry and literary fiction, and photographs of abused Abu Ghraib prisoners. She repeatedly circles back to a few cruelty auteurs like the painter Francis Bacon and the poet Sylvia Plath. This panorama provokes strong reactions in her, but no dogmas. Nelson rejects the modernist claim that brutality in art provokes cathartic reactions that shock us out of alienation and into social justice, but rejects also the notion that cruel art makes people cruel; she wearies of the entertainment industry's cynical assaults on taste and sensibility — '‘neither I nor the world will be a better place if I ingest a particular cruelty'' — while celebrating provocations that she believes have an undeniable artistic power. Nelson's erudition and wide fluency in artistic and philosophical traditions yield many subtle, insightful readings (her meditation on 'brutal honesty' is especially good). But her view of her lurid subject is sometimes too nuanced and unsatisfying. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book News Annotation:

Poet and critic Nelson (critical studies, California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles) explores the notion that readers and viewers of art need to be shocked out of complacency before they can learn anything new, and how it has been applied recently. Her topics include theaters of cruelty, everything is nice, nobody said no, the brutality of face, a situation of meat, rings of action, and rarer and better things. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

A fresh new voice in art and cultural criticism takes on the day's most pressing questions about representations of violence in art.

About the Author

Maggie Nelson is the author of several books, including Bluets and The Art of Cruelty. She teaches at CalArts and lives in Los Angeles, California.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

ruth-ida, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by ruth-ida)
Maggie Nelson is such a gifted thinker and her writing reflects a distinctive gift to readers: logical, academic, intelligent ideas in a poetic package. My book of the year.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Zane Grant, September 1, 2011 (view all comments by Zane Grant)
Thoughtful writing on violence and art is generally hard to come by. A book that attempts to address mainstream violence in film as well as 'high' art (of the gallery variety) is a rare find indeed. While this book focuses more specifically on the concept of 'cruelty', it isn't analytic about coming to some solid definition. It reads more as the author's journal as a person who has sought out works of art that make her uncomfortable but seem aesthetically worthwhile. She opens the question on when that's the case and when a piece seems unnecessary or unjustified. This book opens a lot of questions for those interested in horror, culture, and alienation. Though I didn't always agree with her aesthetic conclusions, I appreciated the questions she posed. For those who are looking for a book that can make thoughtful statements on both Marina Abramović and Eli Roth, look no further.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780393072150
Author:
Nelson, Maggie
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Subject:
Criticism
Subject:
Art-Theory and Criticism
Publication Date:
20110731
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism

The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning New Hardcover
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$24.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393072150 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "The gory, brutal images that swamp modern culture are stupefying and dehumanizing — or maybe not, argues this richly ambivalent study. Poet Nelson (Bluets) surveys cruel art, lowbrow and high, flitting among Hollywood torture-porn and sadistic reality shows, avant-garde films and performance pieces, poetry and literary fiction, and photographs of abused Abu Ghraib prisoners. She repeatedly circles back to a few cruelty auteurs like the painter Francis Bacon and the poet Sylvia Plath. This panorama provokes strong reactions in her, but no dogmas. Nelson rejects the modernist claim that brutality in art provokes cathartic reactions that shock us out of alienation and into social justice, but rejects also the notion that cruel art makes people cruel; she wearies of the entertainment industry's cynical assaults on taste and sensibility — '‘neither I nor the world will be a better place if I ingest a particular cruelty'' — while celebrating provocations that she believes have an undeniable artistic power. Nelson's erudition and wide fluency in artistic and philosophical traditions yield many subtle, insightful readings (her meditation on 'brutal honesty' is especially good). But her view of her lurid subject is sometimes too nuanced and unsatisfying. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , A fresh new voice in art and cultural criticism takes on the day's most pressing questions about representations of violence in art.
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